(Part 1 of 2)
The internet is a huge database of travel tips and tricks for tourists and travelers. When I decided to travel alone to Bali last year, I found myself poring over hundreds of blogs and travel guides months prior to my trip. My typical research covers the basic information about the country I will be visiting, best places to eat and sleep, activities to engage in and even bargaining styles when souvenir-shopping. Of course those are just a few of the things one needs to earn when traveling. But no matter how well-equipped I thought I was with all the articles and guides I read, there were still lessons that experience taught better than web pages did.
1. Cash or Debit?
One of the last few topics I researched before flying off to Bali was the mode of payment for travelers in the island. While travel guides say credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Bali, they seem to have left out this significant phrase: with a minimum of 50,000 IDR (or 100,000 IDR). On my third day in Bali my rupiahs were already dwindling and it had me thinking of selling my iPad or my watch if and when things got worse. But technology saved my skin, my iPad and my watch. Through Skype, I called my bank’s hotline and requested to activate my international ATM withdrawal. Soon after, I was cashing out rupiahs from several ATMs in Ubud and Kuta. And I was once again a millionaire.
Unless you have a dollar account, ATM withdrawal is more practical, less hassle than exchanging your precious pesos to US dollars then to another currency. Keep in mind that not all countries will directly exchange Philippine Peso into the local currency. BUT since you can withdraw anytime, anywhere there is an ATM, and if you have the tendency to be an impulse buyer, you run the risk of going (way) over your budget with this method. Also, this will only work well if you are sure ATMs are prolific in the city/country you are visiting, or at least in airports or city centers.
2. Solo traveling doesn’t mean you are a responsible, independent adult.
Never ever make excuses for skipping meals or staying hydrated. I used to be a serial meal skipper when I’m alone. In Ubud, I skipped many meals or ate out of the normal lunch and dinner times because I was writing or playing 2048 in my room. Once I got dehydrated from sightseeing and walking around Ubud because I left my water bottle in my room. On purpose. Carrying a little extra weight in my bag was too much for my aging back. That was my excuse.
Ubud and Kuta offered different varieties of food, from local to international dishes, organic food, junk food, everything. I just had too many excuses when I skipped meals. I was too far from the best restaurants. I still had crackers and water. I ate a heavy breakfast. It was just pure laziness.
3. Learning the dialect or language of your destination is good but use it with caution.
I was a giddy seven-year-old on her first day of school as I said Apa kabar? to the waitress who welcomed me to Kopi Bali in Ubud. When she answered and carried on with the conversation in Indonesian, I was as dumbfounded as a seven-year-old being taught the Primordial Soup Theory on her first day of school.
Filipinos look a lot like everyone in Southeast Asia so it’s better to let the locals know first that you are a Filipino and that you don’t understand Indonesian (or other language) save for the basic phrases. It’s safer to express gratitude than greet in the local language if you really want to impress the locals.